The following is a guest post by Jeanette Altman, a Digital Projects Professional at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
For many Alaskans, it’s not uncommon to be just slightly out of step with the rest of America. Things that might be easily obtainable Outside (that’s the Lower 48 to you) come at a premium here. Free shipping? Not to Alaska!
So when some of us here at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Elmer E. Rasmuson Library first got wind of the Library of Congress’ Digital Preservation Outreach and Education program’s Train the Trainer workshops, we asked, “When are you expanding to include Alaska?” After receiving the disappointing but altogether unsurprising news that there were no such plans, George Coulbourne, Executive Program Officer at the Library of Congress, offered us an opportunity for a collaborative partnership. One year later, Train the Trainer, Alaska Edition, was born.
Now in its third year, DPOE seeks to foster national outreach and education about digital preservation, using a Train the Trainer model to reach as many people as possible. Participants are trained in DPOE’s baseline curriculum, and then given the tools they need to build their own teaching network after they return to their communities.
The August 27-29 workshop in Fairbanks, Alaska, was hosted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, and made possible by the generosity of the Alaska State Library and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Participants throughout the state of Alaska were flown in to Fairbanks for the three-day training. Twenty-four participants now join the growing network of 87 “topical trainers” across the United States, and are the first in the state of Alaska.
Rasmuson Library opened the application process to Alaska residents in May of 2013. Participants were flown in from various regions of Alaska such as Kotzebue, Igiugig, and Skagway, and represented a myriad of organizations including the National Park Service, Alaskan tribal libraries, cultural foundations, and various museums and libraries.
“I so enjoyed participating in the workshop, and feel invigorated by all that I learned over the three day event,” said Angie Schmidt, a workshop participant and film archivist with the Alaska Film Archives. “Being able to interact and form contacts with leaders from the Library of Congress and other institutions, as well as colleagues from around the state was especially valuable. The framework provided for initiating and carrying through on digital preservation projects will be so beneficial to us all in coming months and years.”
On the first day of the training, six groups were formed to focus on each of the DPOE modules: Identify, Select, Store, Protect, Manage and Provide. The diversity of the participant population was a valuable addition overall, as each group brought aspects of their cultural heritage and experience to their presentations. The workshop provided time for networking and sharing of resources and experience, which has already led to further collaboration between Rasmuson Library and other state organizations. We hope that we can use this event as a starting point to find the right partners and funders to build out a digital preservation community in Alaska, including more Train the Trainer sessions, technical skills training, and investments in infrastructure.
“Alaska now has their first group of trained digital preservation practitioners,” Coulbourne noted in the event’s closing. “You all have the unique potential to collaborate across the state and use your newly acquired skills to enhance your communities’ efforts to preserve and make available the rich cultural heritage and treasures held by the Native Alaskan people.”
Robin Dale of LYRASIS, Mary Molinaro of the University of Kentucky and Jacob Nadal of the Brooklyn Historical Society continued their tradition of serving as lead or “anchor” instructors. Their generosity, their organizations’ commitment, and the Library of Congress focus on this national effort allowed the DPOE Train the Trainer Program to be offered to attendees from remote areas of Alaska who otherwise may not have been able to attend this critical skill building program in digital stewardship.
It was obvious to me that one of DPOE’s most valuable attributes is cost-effectiveness. The cultural heritage community needs quality training at a low cost. Digital preservation is a critical skill set, but training current staff is often too expensive for smaller institutions or states such as ours where accessibility to in-person training is very challenging if not impossible during certain times of the year. This program has helped the Rasmuson Library staff to work with the state’s professional and Native Alaskan organizations to preserve our rich history, folklore, and traditions in digital form. I hope the community formed at this training event will raise the level of digital preservation practice, forge new partnerships, and bring more Alaskans and their valuable collections, up to speed with digital stewardship.